Hamilton City Schools reverses on plan to arm staffers, draws sheriff’s ire

Hamilton school officials reversed their plans to arm school staffers Tuesday evening, saying they need more information and time to see the outcome of a November security tax levy.

The move counters the previous public stance of the leader of the 10,000-student Hamilton Schools and has re-ignited friction between the city schools and the Butler County Sheriff on how best to protect the schools.

Sheriff Richard Jones, who had previously paid for a billboard questioning the local schools’ commitment to improve security, blasted school officials shortly after the meeting, saying “they can’t be trusted.”

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The Hamilton Board of Education voted 5-0 approving a resolution and said the arming of teachers will not happen in the city schools.

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In a statement read at the meeting by board member Laurin Sprague, he said “currently the board does not feel that we will have all the information we need to make this decision until we know the results of the countywide school safety levy in November.”

“Therefore, the board will not pursue the implementation of any armed personnel in our schools until the levy results are available. Our reason for this delay is because the board wants to know if we will be able to afford (armed) school resource officers in all of our buildings and that is dependent of the passing of the levy. The board feels the reality of school resource officers in all of our buildings greatly lessens or could possibly negate the need for armed personnel, so we are willing to wait to make our decision,” according to the board’s statement.

“Furthermore, the board has decided regardless of the levy outcome that Hamilton teachers will not be armed. The board does, however, want to keep open the possibility of arming other school personnel (some classified or administrative) in the voluntary, well trained status that has been discussed to this point. To that end, we have directed Superintendent (Larry) Knapp to gather more information of current non-teaching personnel who are currently in the district and have a military or law enforcement background.”

At this point, board members said “we will not be accepting any applications or starting any training with anyone who might be interested in volunteering.”

The board, which last month conducted a public town hall meeting along with Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit, also said “we have heard from many parents, students, teachers and community members. Through this time we have heard viewpoints that support the arming of personnel and also those who do not. The topic is an important one that deserves the attention that it has generated.”

The board will continue to gather public input on school security issues, members said.

But Jones accused Superintendent Knapp and board members of going back on their promise to pursue arming some school staffers and installing metal detectors in the city schools.

“They have changed up what they told me. I don’t trust the school board or the superintendent, and I will not support their (school security) levy,” said Jones.

The sheriff also said in response to district officials’ latest actions he now plans to post two new billboards with messages in opposition of Hamilton’s pursuit of a 1.5-mill, 10-year school security tax hike that is also being sought by four other Butler County school systems.

“I’m not supporting their money grab,” said Jones.

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